How to Stay Healthy During Throat Cancer Treatments
While the symptoms of throat cancer can look similar from patient to patient, the treatments used to battle this disease often vary widely. The determination of how to fight your throat cancer will depend on factors such as the location of the cancer, the size of the tumor, and whether it has spread (metastasized) to other parts of the body. Even in less severe cases, however, the treatments for throat cancer can have significant, debilitating effects on the body; these developments can even force your doctor to alter or delay treatments until your system has had a chance to recover. If you or someone you know is being treated for this ailment, be aware that there are steps a patient can take to stay healthy during throat cancer treatments. To find out more, read on as the people from Chemo Mouthpiece™ tackle this topic.
Common Treatments for Throat Cancer
The importance of the throat in many everyday activities – from talking and eating to singing and breathing – complicates the treatments for throat cancer somewhat, but these procedures are essentially the same as the treatments for other types of cancer. Often, patients will undergo a combination of procedures designed to improve their chances of recovery. The extent of these complex regimens will largely depend on the severity of their condition and whether the benefits outweigh the inevitable side effects that chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery carry with them; more information about each can be found below.
Compared to chemo, radiation therapy offers a few advantages that make it a better option for early-stage throat cancers. For one thing, radiation is a targeted therapy, which means it only affects the area of the body to which it has been applied. In the case of throat cancer, that means that a beam of radiation will be directed at the throat from outside the body, or a small radioactive object will be inserted near the cancer – a treatment known as brachytherapy. In either case, the patient tends to only experience side effects near where they were treated, which can limit their reach and severity.
Used by itself, chemotherapy medication can cause significant damage throughout the body; when used along with radiation, the side effects of chemo can be even more debilitating. That said, these treatments can prove especially effective against cancer when used in tandem, so they are often administered together when treating late-stage forms of the disease. Some drugs can even target unique characteristics found in certain throat cancer cells, part of a treatment method called targeted drug therapy; however, the ultra-specific nature of this procedure limits its applications.
Depending on the circumstances, surgery can either be a more or less drastic proposition than chemo or radiation for patients with throat cancer. Those with a very early form of this cancer may simply require endoscopic surgery, in which a flexible tube is inserted into the throat and small tools, such as a scalpel or laser, are used to remove the superficial tumor. In more advanced cases, however, surgery can have lifelong implications; patients may need to have part or all of their voice box (larynx) removed, a decision that could severely and irreversibly inhibit a patient’s ability to speak. In extreme instances, a patient may even require a tracheotomy: a significant portion of the throat is cut away, leaving patients to breathe through a hole, or stoma, in the throat.
Staying Healthy During Throat Cancer Treatments
For patients battling throat cancer, it is imperative to maintain healthy habits and practice self-care; this means eating enough calories to keep your body energized, observing proper nutrition, exercising when you can, giving yourself time to rest, and practicing good oral hygiene during chemo or radiation. Below, you’ll find some of the common issues affecting throat cancer patients and tips on how to mitigate or prevent them to stay as healthy as possible during treatment.
- Nausea and vomiting: If you are having trouble settling your stomach or keeping food down, try avoiding strong smells like those from cooking food. Eating your meals cold can help with this, as can choosing bland options like applesauce or pudding.
- Malnutrition: Patients with throat cancer often have trouble chewing or swallowing food, which can lead to malnutrition or dehydration – two conditions that may force delays in your treatment. To prevent this, take in as many calories and fluids as you can each day, even if they’re in the form of milkshakes, nutrition shakes, or pureed foods.
- Fatigue: It’s not uncommon for patients to feel completely drained in the hours and days after a treatment, no matter what kind. Clearing your schedule for these days can help you find the time to rest and recuperate, which will help your body repair itself and better tolerate subsequent treatments.
If you are struggling with the side effects of your throat cancer treatment, discuss them with your oncologist or cancer care team. They may have suggestions for how to handle your symptoms, or they may be able to adjust your treatment to help alleviate the side effects.